This is certainly a more serious discussion of discipleship than
most of us are wanting to hear.


 

"Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come
to bring peace but a sword. I have come to 'set a man against his
father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law
against her mother-in-law'; and 'a man's enemies will be those of
his own household.' He who loves father or mother more than Me
is not worthy of Me. He who loves son or daughter more than
Me is not worthy of Me.

"He who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy
of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life
for My sake will find it."
                                                  Matthew 10:34-39 NKJV, condensed


                                        The Sword of Jesus!

Dear Jesus, I realize life is complex and people have many dimensions
to their personality. You, having been both human and divine, had more
than the usual complexities. Still, You shock me into silence with this
talk of a sword! Believers look up to heaven in high expectation of peace,
and you fling down a sword! How am I to understand that? It makes
no sense. You make it sound like it's one and not the other; I would
prefer at least some of each.

Is Your sword like the one Simeon spoke of to Mary when you were
an infant? A sword of suffering that would rip through her heart and
pierce her very soul. Is it a sword that cuts through the facade to reveal
the thoughts of our hearts and separate belief from unbelief.

Is it for cutting loose and breaking free from the protective and
possessive elements of family life which hover like enemies within our
own household? Is Your sword a weapon signifying the divisions which
You cause? Is it a knife which severs relationships and causes pain
within our families?

Is Your sword a cross, as in the hymn, "Onward Christian Soldiers"
marching to war with the cross of Jesus going on before? Is it an
armament for fighting against the forces of evil without, such as greed,
oppression and injustice, and within, against unbelief, fear and
self-righteousness?

I am intrigued by verse 13 of this chapter. "If the house is worthy, give
it your blessing of peace. But if it is not worthy, take back your blessing
of peace." When You bring a sword, Jesus, does that mean we are
not worthy of peace?

O Prince of Peace, how can You carry a sword? I have grown
accustomed to associating You with a cross. But not a sword. Surely
it is not a sword for killing. Then what is its purpose? Are You cutting
through my dishonesty and pretense? You tell me, rather You demand
from me, that I love You more than all others, more than my children,
more than my parents.

You know, Jesus, when You come on so strong, it's intimidating and
I am not sure I even want to be "worthy" of You! Granted You did not
say I should love my daughter and son less. You just said I must love
You more, which of course, is the first commandment. But then You
added, "Take up your cross." I thought You were the one with the cross.
Why are you projecting Your cross onto me?

Why were You even talking about a cross at this point in Your ministry.
You were still very much alive. It must have been at least a year before
they nailed You to that tree and dropped it into the ground and left You
hanging there to die a torturous death.

That's what made You worthy. You surrendered Your life so the likes
of me could have the promise of eternal life. You gave Your life for my
sake, and in return You ask me to lose my life for Your sake. And when
I do, You vowed that I would live by dying and find my life by forgetting
self. Carrying a cross was a death march, the last thing a criminal did
before the execution; yet if I pick up my cross, You promise me life!

I did not understand these words when I started this prayer, but now
maybe I do, at least a little. As You listened to me and cut through the
veil of my heart, I got a glimpse of Yours, too.

One thing more. I do not believe that strife is the final word. Just as
every morning when light overcomes the darkness, so in all conflicts
we must hope and pray and believe in peace because, O Christ, You
are much more than a sword. You are the rock of our salvation, the
fountainhead of joy, our food and drink, the one true shepherd, each
heart's desire, the herald of every new day, our comfort at night,
and the mender of all that is broken.

And now, loving Jesus, I bow before You and ask that You use the
sword to make us worthy to receive the Prince of Peace. Amen

 

Use the following questions for small groups, journaling, further
study or reflection.

 

Icebreaker: Where or with whom do you feel the most acceptance and support?

 

Paradoxes are interesting to debate.
            Can you love and hate someone at the same time?
            Can you save by spending? Win by losing?
            What are some other statements which sound contradictory but
                        may in fact be true?

 

Did Jesus come to bring peace?   A sword?
Did he come to bring unity?   Division?   To bind up?   To tear down?
            All of the above?   None of the above?
            What do you think?
            How are we to explain these paradoxes?
            Could Jesus be called the Prince of Peace and still wield a sword?

 

Onward, Christian soldiers, Marching as to war, With the cross of Jesus
Going on before; Christ the royal Master Leads against the foe; Forward
into battle, See His banners go.
            Do you like to sing this hymn?
            Who or what is the enemy that Christians are fighting?

 

The quotes in this passage are from Micah 7:6, wherein the Old
Testament prophet claimed a man's enemies are of his own household.
Interestingly, Jesus had personal experience with this subject; see
Mark 3:21 and 3:31-35, about a time when his family came to take
Jesus home because of reports he was out of his mind.

 

The ideal is peace, but sometimes strife is the reality, even in our homes.
            Are disagreements on matters of faith common or rare within the
                       circle of your immediate and extended family?
            Describe one instance of dissension that involved you?
            Was there a peaceful resolution to that conflict?
                        Why or why not?

 

I put my reflections on this passage in the form of a prayer because I
didn't know how else to handle it. Which I suppose is one way to deal
with any Scripture which is troublesome. I wrestled long and hard with
the image of Jesus bearing a sword; it seems inconsistent with everything
else in the Gospels. Emotionally I don't want to accept it. But Jesus
stated it so very clearly, it can not be denied. So all I could do was pray
my way through and bombard Jesus with my questions. It's a technique
I recommend to anyone who is genuinely wanting to understand a
difficult portion of the Bible.

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